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No health without mental health

Anthea McLeary and Martin Street - 10/11/2010


Mental health problems significantly higher in people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illness

Anthea McLeary

"Better integration of mental health and primary care services is needed to help treat and reduce mental health problems and improve health outcomes generally," says Professor Max Abbott, Dean of AUT University's Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences.

"Mental health is a critical issue in all areas of life. There is a greater need to appreciate the links between mental health and chronic illness including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illness.

"While there has been some recent improvement in this country in adding mental health to primary care services, silos remain with physical and mental health in largely separate service departments. A huge challenge remains in providing integrated care," he says.

As President of the World Federation for Mental Health, Professor Abbott helped found World Mental Health Day in 1992. He chaired the first World Mental Health Day jointly with the Director General of the World Health Organisation. It now celebrated globally on an annual basis and has increased public awareness and helped place mental health higher on government policy agendas.

The World Health Organisation has recently stated that chronic illness is responsible for 60% of the world's deaths and constitutes the major public health challenge of the century.

Professor Abbott says that during the past decade research has greatly extended understanding of relationships between chronic physical illness and mental health disorders.

"People with chronic illness have much higher rates of depression and anxiety than the general population. Untreated, mental health problems lead to worse outcomes for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancers and other chronic diseases. Greater investment in the provision of comprehensive, integrated primary care services is fundamental to enhance well-being and resilience and to prevent, treat and alleviate illness and disability.

"Mental health is a priority for all people. Body and mind interact directly in health and disease. The bottom line is that there is no health without mental health and that physical and mental health need to be considered together."

Flourishing for everyBODY, Mental Health Awareness Week

Martin Street

Mental Health Awareness Week was held early in October and the Mental Health Foundation encouraged everyone to focus on the positive aspects of life and the communities around them.

The theme for this year's awareness week was 'Flourishing for everyBODY'. In development over the last decade, flourishing can be used to determine the level of positive mental health in populations. When someone is flourishing they experience a full range of emotions, interest and engagement with the world around them. They also feel more meaning and purpose in their lives and evidence suggests that people who are flourishing are less at risk of physical and mental health problems.

"The Mental Health Foundation's vision is a society where all people flourish, says Judi Clements, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation. "As we work towards this we hope to see an increase in the number of positive relationships throughout our communities leading to an improvement in individuals' mental wellbeing."

The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging all New Zealanders to play their part in looking after their mental health and by doing so helping create a society where all people flourish.

Changing Clendon For The Better

Clendon had a negative reputation for a long time. However following a residents' meeting in 2003 some of the residents decided to band together and form the Clendon Residents Group with the aim of creating a healthier community.

The group now runs several projects including a tool and toy library, a 'Beautify your home' project, a community garden and a variety of events such as beach clean up days.

Clendon Residents Group Chairman Sarah Brown says people are interested in coming together as a community. "We've found a lot of people would like to come and meet other people in their community and want to be involved in something but don't know how to be," she says. "The Group's projects give them the opportunity to connect with and help their community."

Relay to support Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation is proud to be associated with the Great Lake Relay, who for the first time in the event's 16-year history, have taken on board an official charity fundraising partner.

Through a partnership with Event Promotions, participants competing in the February relay will now have the opportunity to fundraise and show their support for the Foundation whilst being in with a chance to win a variety of prizes including restaurant and accommodation vouchers and gym memberships.

"Being involved with the Great Lake Relay is hugely exciting for everyone at the Foundation," says Judi Clements. "The event will not only help the Foundation financially, but it also promotes the five proven ways to maintain and improve our mental health and wellbeing; connect, give, take notice, learn and be active."

Through a dedicated fundraising site participants will be able to register and build their own personal fundraising page. This page can then be used to promote their involvement, ask for donations and serve as a place for supporters to leave messages of encouragement and view fundraising progress.

All funds raised will enable the Foundation to provide free information, resources and training on mental health issues to promote mental health and wellbeing for all age groups and for communities as well as individuals. The Foundation works to reduce the stigma, shame and discrimination often associated with mental illness and encourages openness, support and family/whanau involvement.

The Great Lake Relay takes place around Lake Taupo on 19 February, 2011. Each year, around 6000 participants cover the 155km course in teams consisting of 10 to 18 members, either running or walking the entire distance around Lake Taupo. There is also a shorter Length of the Lake relay catering for teams of five to eight members and totalling 67km.

Lyttelton Has Big Ideas

As part of Project Lyttelton, a non-profit organisation with charitable status, Lyttelton's Time Bank is helping the port town near Banks Peninsula become more sustainable and self-sufficient.

Time banks are a way of trading skills in the community. Members get credit for the time they spend doing something for another member of the time bank. Each person's input is measured in time rather than financial value and all activities are seen as equal.

The Time Bank also has a community treasure chest where people can donate their time credits so that credit is there if anyone should find they need a lot of help.

"The Lyttleton Time Bank puts a measurable value on people's time. People earn credits by giving their time in a variety of ways such as helping someone with their grocery shopping through to providing companionship" says Judi Clements. "Through projects like this, people develop a real sense of belonging and connecting and that in turn contributes towards creating a flourishing community."

Victory and beyond in Nelson

In the past the Nelson suburb of Victory was better known for it high rates of drug abuse and gang violence, but in 2007 the Victory Village Community Health Centre was built and has since played an important role in the community's transformation.

The centre offers access to a low cost doctor and a range of regular free services from hearing tests and Plunket to work and income services, plus a wide range of social activities such as badminton, dance classes and a writers' group.

There's no disputing Nelson's Victory is now a top community. In fact, it's official: at the inaugural New Zealander of the Year awards in February it scooped up the community award.

The Mall Walk Workout in New Lynn

Go along to Lynn Mall early on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, before the shops have even opened, and you may be surprised by the level of activity taking place.

Twice a week a group of mall walkers meet at 6:45 am to start their days in a healthy way.

Residents of New Lynn, Waitakere City, can join in the free exercise regime, which has been running for about 10 years.

In the summer months the mall walkers take an outside route, utilising the ramps and stairs as they walk around the mall, while in wet weather the route can simply be switched to an indoor one.

For the walkers it brings social interaction and a healthy start to their day whilst for the malls it brings business to their shops and cafes as people often window shop and end their sessions with refreshments.

The flourishing communities of Opotiki, Porirua and Whangarei

In Opotiki, a recent mural project has seen hundreds of local youth create 16 murals around the town.

The artworks not only brighten the city but have helped improve civic pride and reduce graffiti. Each of the designs reflects Opotiki and its people. Some incorporate cultural symbols or historical events whilst others reflect the lifestyle of the residents.

The residents of Opotiki got behind the murals with family members bringing lunch for those painting and others putting in extra time at weekends because they wanted to create a quality artwork.

Anyone spending time in Porirua can't fail to notice people walking the streets in lime green uniforms.

The wearers are members of the Porirua Community Guardians: volunteers who spend time patrolling the city streets to make it a friendlier place to live.

Since their inception in 2003, the Guardians have done everything from helping with crowd control at large public events to stopping vandalism and thefts to acting as ambassadors for their city, stepping in wherever the community might need them.

All Guardians undergo a police check and receive on-the-job training from a more experienced member plus additional training in first aid. The Guardians receive financial support from the local council and chamber of commerce and the council also helps by providing vehicles when needed.

For nearly 20 years a disused quarry just outside of Whangarei was simply used as a rubbish dump but thanks to a group of volunteers this once abandoned area is now a subtropical public garden.

The campaign to create the Whangarei Quarry Gardens began in 1990 and by 1997 enough local residents had been motivated to start work on the gardens.

The garden now receives more around 5,000 volunteer hours a year helping maintain and improve the considerable 24-hectare site.

As well as providing an attractive space for locals and visitors to walk and relax in, it hosts around eight to ten weddings a summer.

"These activities can have a flow effect that help to create a more positive environment," says Judi Clements.